When the suffering is unbearable


The Mirror reporter

Have you ever heard of physician-assisted suicide? No? That makes sense because here in the United States of America it is only legal in Oregon, Montana, Washington, Vermont, Hawaii, California, Colorado and Washington D.C., That’s eight out of 50 states. Isn’t that bizarre?

Physician-assisted suicide (PAS) is the suicide of a patient suffering from an incurable disease by taking a lethal drug provided by a doctor for this purpose. It helps someone who will eventually die but in a more controlled factor and in peace.

Physician-assisted suicide is the same as euthanasia. You probably heard the word euthanasia before because we use it for our animals when they have a serious terminal illness. Euthanasia is used through an IV whereas PAS is given in a pill form.

How come we can euthanize our pets when they have cancer but can’t euthanize our people when they have incurable cancer? It’s a battle that has many aspects that come into play with it.

Those who don’t agree with PAS believe that to end certain people’s lives doesn’t end suffering, it just passes on the suffering to someone else.

Society needs to learn compassion and address a patient’s pain and other problems. With PAS there’s not just a definite end your life because you want to. It’s to end your life in an appropriate way, on your time, to end your suffering. It’s something that patients who are thinking about this will have discussed with their family. They might not all agree with it but the family will support he or she in their decision.

Right now, in Canada, this is highly being debated, which shows that having the will to die in utterly bad situations can be good when suffering can get to be too much. PAS is not an easier way to commit suicide. It’s a way for people who are suffering to end their suffering.

The American Medical Association opposes PAS and says it is “fundamentally incompatible with the physician’s role as healer, would be difficult or impossible to control, and would pose serious societal risks.”

In the case of Washington v. Glucksberg (1997), the Supreme Court ruled that the Due Process clause of the 14th Amendment does not guarantee an individual the right to PAS. The Court since ruled that individual states can have a legitimate interest in prohibiting PAS. The ruling made it clear that legalizing or criminalizing PAS is a matter of states’ rights.

Even in states where it is legal, there is not much demand for PAS. In 2015, 132 people died by PAS. Similarly, in Washington in 2015 there were 166 deaths due to PAS. Only 24 PAS-related deaths were recorded by Vermont from 2013 to 2016. If PAS was legal in all 50 states and accounted for 0.25 percent of deaths in 2014 (2,596,993), there would have been 6,492 physician-assisted suicides.

Complications that occur during PAS are almost never reported. The main reason may be because doctors are not present when the patient takes the lethal dose. A 10-year study of PAS in Oregon found that physicians were not present in about one-fourth of the cases. But the reason may also be that physicians are merely underreporting the actual number of complications. A lead author of one of Oregon’s official reports on PAS said there is no systematic way of finding out and recording complications other than “asking physicians.” She also acknowledged, “After they write the prescription, the physician may not keep track of the patient.”

This year, Wisconsin is considering having the organization death with dignity a part of their state. The mission of the Death with Dignity National Center is to promote death with dignity laws based on our model legislation, the Oregon Death with Dignity Act, which provides an option for dying individuals and to stimulate nationwide improvements in end-of-life care.

Physician-assisted suicide in a topic that is really not discussed. Yet, we should choose to discuss it because it is always important to know your options when it comes to a terminal illness and what kind of death you choose to have.